Yard sale shopping 101

My husband would say I never met a yard sale I didn't like, but that's not exactly true. I've met plenty of yard sales with craptastic stuff in it that I really wish I hadn't even bothered to slow my car down to look at, much less stop and get out.


Even so, I do love me a good yard sale- I saw my first of the season just this past weekend, and if I hadn't been rushing to actually get somewhere, I would have stopped. Alas, I didn't have the time, so it was probably my loss. Some of my best stuff I've gotten at yard sales.


The blue chairs of dooooom! Doooooom!!!

I got three of these blue chairs of doom for TEN BUCKS!! 


Over the years, I've developed a kind of knack for haggling at yard sales. Americans, by and large, have not learned the art of haggling. You go to Target, they say it costs $3.99, you pay your money and go on with your day.


Yard sales are not the same. To really enjoy the yard sale experience, you must haggle. Here is some insight on the art of the haggle.


Don't insult people's stuff.

Conventional haggling wisdom tells you to act like you're not all that interested in the stuff. Act like you don't want it, don't need it. I say that's hooey. You might get away with that at antique shops, but you have to keep in mind, the stuff they're selling at yard sales is stuff the people used to own, and often, used to love. Tell the people, "I really dig this (item). It would fit in perfectly in my (room of the house you'd put it in.)"


Carry cash.


I bring tons of cash to yard sales and keep it in various places on my person.  I keep $100 in the back of my wallet, $50 in a zippered part of my wallet, $20 in my right pocket and $10 in my right pocket. I learned this trick quite by accident- I got three of those fab blue chairs up there for $10. I was at a yard sale and was down to my last ten bucks. I saw the blue chairs and knew I wanted them for my back porch. I approached the seller and explained that I was down to my last $10, but I'd love those chairs. Lo and behold, they sold them to me for the $10. (They were originally asking $30!) 


Drive your crummiest car to the yard sale.


A long time ago, I was standing with a friend of mine who ran her own catering company. She was waiting on some people to show up to talk about the wedding they wanted her to cater. We watched out the window as they pulled up in their brand new Lexus SUV. She grinned at me and said, "The price just went up." 

Getting a good deal at a yard sale works much the same way. If you drive your 1978 Ford Hoopty to the yard sale and tell them it's your last $10, they're going to believe you. If you show up in your brand spanking new Beemer, they're not going to believe you. 


Don't insult their asking price.


A lot of people deliberately overprice their yard sale stuff, knowing how people love to haggle.  But if you ask a price that is too low, you'll insult them and you'll never get the items at the price you want. I generally give them a price that's roughly 60% of their asking price. If they're asking $100, I'll offer $60. When they come back with $75, that's when I tell them I'm down to my last $70. 


Get it at rock bottom. 


If you're willing to lose the item, this method sometimes works.  Tell the person your rock-bottom price for the item. (for this, I'll usually offer about 30% of what they were originally asking) Give them your card and say, "Hey, if you don't sell it and still have it at the end of the day, I'll pay X amount for it." Now, I've tried this a few times, and have never had the people call me back and offer me the item, ever. But it always seemed to work for my grandmother. Perhaps she's more likeable than I am. I saw her get a buffet for $50 that way- once she cleaned it up, she had it appraised and it appraised for $1500. So, this method does work, but not for me. 


I am so glad it's nearly yard sale time again! I'd love to hear your yard sale suggestions! 

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tina on Jun 01, 2011:

I like the article except as I am having a yard sale I am nervouse that the cheapskates such as you and your followers will insult me and my nice things!!

Anonymous on Oct 13, 2009:

I have a different take on garage sales.  First, you can't go looking for something specific, you'll never find it.  I look for 'new' items - I have 3 coffee makers in my garage, 2 Mr. Coffee and 1 Braun.  Never opened boxes.  So when mine gets skuzzy I just toss it and bring out a new one.  Didn't pay more than $5 for any one. 

Secondly, I do a lot of selling with my garage sale purchases on Ebay so I look for unusual items - old does not always make it valuable, scarcity does.  I don't buy 'figurines' - too many Made in China for $3.99 and not sellable on Ebay.

I live in a California city of about 40,000 and only do city/neighborhood, weekend garage sales.  I don't go out  into the country for so-called barn sales.  If it's not in 'my backyard' I won't go hunting,  I also don't go at the crack of dawn - usually 8-10 and I'm done on a Friday and/or Saturday.  My best purchase was a $3 copper vase which I sold on Ebay for $5,800!  That particular sale was ending and it was about Noon - turned out to be a great garage sale day.  Didn't realize what I had for a couple of weeks.

I exchange Christmas presents with my best friend but we only give what we have purchased at garage sales throughout the year.  Lots of fun....many items trigger a memory.

Go for it! 


RedTex on Sep 07, 2009:

My husband is anti yardsale, but went to be with me.  Getting a man to get a price on girly stuff, like sewing items, is great!  He gets better deals than I do.  He's great at haggling, friendly and polite, gets good deals.  Never insult the seller by belittling items or offering pennies on the dollar of selling price. Curb your kids and use your manners.  Sellers appreciate it. Even if we don't buy, we always thank the people.

jacquilives on Jul 06, 2008:

Great tips, but I will add one more: If you love something, I mean LOVE it, and it's a fair price, buy it.

ModHomeEcTeacher on Feb 09, 2008:

I've never been denied when I offer someone less than asking at a yard sale or garage sale.  This especially works at the end of the day, obviously.  What do we have, two more months until weekend hunting begins?

yeye_joijoi on Nov 18, 2007:

I just want you to know that you are amazing for posting such great, clear, instructional tips. My greatest fear (well... okay maybe not greatest) is haggling. I have a terrible fear of seeming cheap. But your guide makes me feel ready for the game!

The cleaning posts also, have been a great inspiration to me. Thanks!

atrophie on Aug 01, 2007:

great post!  i've never really had enough confidence to haggle but i think i'll be trying it out in the near future!

houseonthecorner on Mar 07, 2007:

I love these tips and love the chairs!

ideagirl on Mar 05, 2007:

Great yard sale tips--I agree with you on the haggling. It seems like most of the people I see trying to haggle at yard sales and swap meets start out with the negative--"Ten dollars? Yeah, sure, I'll give you two." Why they think insulting the seller will get them a discount is beyond me.

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